Uber is out of control

A phone screen displays the Uber app. CREDIT: BEN HARRIETHA
The price of an Uber has gotten out of control.

I have mentioned in previous articles I’ve written that I don’t own a vehicle. I have my reasons, but they all boil down to “it’s expensive.” But, when you need to get from point A to point B in a reasonable amount of time, they’re the best way to do it. What’s a no-car fool like me supposed to do? Why, some form of rideshare of course!

Rideshare has been a thing in one form or another since the 70s, when Chrysler employees would organize carpools to save money during the oil crisis during that decade. With the dawn of the internet in the mid-to-late 90s, rideshare programs went online. Rideshare as we know it started in 2009, with the founding of Uber.

I hesitate to call Uber a good app, however, I will relent that it has its uses in some cases, like getting home safely from a night out with friends. Unfortunately, that’s about where my good will with Uber ends.

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It’s expensive, has effectively put most taxis out of business, and has an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to its controversies. The price of an Uber is what really drives me up a wall.

My partner was down for the holidays, and recently flew back to Halifax, where he attends school. The airport there is quite far from his home in Point Pleasant, around a 30-minute drive. Based on some of the other rides I’ve had with Uber, for a ride of that length, I would say the cost should be around $60.

Do you, dear reader, know how much Uber projected the cost of the ride to be?


How is that even remotely OK to charge for a 30-minute car ride? According to Uber, prices like this are due to surge pricing which “quickly connects each person who needs a ride with a driver to help them get to their destinations.” To put that in non-corporate jargon speak, certain places and certain times will cause the prices of the rides to go up. Riders can apparently wait a few minutes to see if they go back down to more normal places.

In our case, after five minutes of panicking, they went back down to a more normal price, and he was able to get home for only $50. Still a lot of money, but not unreasonable for the length of the ride.

But that five-minute difference made something click in my head. If five minutes was the difference between $50 and $150, then why did it jump in the first place? It’s not like there was any less demand for rides, it’s an airport. And it’s not like supply was low either! The ride came within a minute. It doesn’t add up.

It also just feels gross from a consumer perspective. The surge pricing comes up when demand is high, such as during emergency situations. For example, when Hurricane Sandy hit New York in 2012, mass transit was shut down. Riders were potentially paying up to $175 for a ride, no matter the length of the ride. In emergency situations, where people need to be able to get home quickly, charging such high rates takes advantage of those people.

I understand adjusting price with supply and demand, that’s simple economics. But the price of rides should be capped at a certain point as to not take advantage of those just trying to get home. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like things are going to change on that front, and people like me will continue to pay for expensive rides with Uber. What other option is there?

Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.